Councilors Call for Hearing on Enforcement of Short-Term Rental Regulations

Boston City Councilors Ed Flynn, Kenzie Bok, and Lydia Edwards are calling for a hearing this week regarding the status and the enforcement of the Short Term Rental Ordinance passed in 2018. The hearing order follows a decision at the Zoning Board of Appeal last week, opposed by both Councilors Flynn and Bok, in which relief was granted for Sonder to convert 26 units to Executive Suites on Batterymarch St. This decision runs contrary to the spirit of the 2018 ordinance, which sought to remove non-owner occupied properties, Investor Units and large corporate operators from participating in short term rental activity due to their impact on Boston’s housing stock, rental market, and quality of life issues they presented in our neighborhoods. 

In 2019, a hearing from Councilors Flynn and Edwards on the implementation of the ordinance specifically raised these concerns, of both the Councilors and civic organizations across the city, that large corporations could potentially continue operating short term rentals in the same manner under the guise of Executive Suites. The Councilors seek to discuss this critical issue and other concerns that exist regarding enforcement of the ordinance, the eligibility criteria and screening process, and the removal of Investor Units.

Passed in June of 2018, the ordinance regulates short term rentals on platforms, such as Airbnb. Only units that are owner-occupied are eligible for short term rentals. The ordinance would also require short term rentals operators to register their units, apply for a license yearly, and notify the abutters. Currently, Executive Suites are exempt from the ordinance and residents, advocates and civic organizations have expressed concerns that large corporations will continue to operate their units by pursuing these conversions. Last week’s decision by the Zoning Board of Appeals included a large, corporate operator who had similar proposals elsewhere Downtown and in the South End. This decision has raised concerns from civic organizations and housing advocates that commercial operators will now seek to exploit Executive Suite conversions to once again run unregulated, de facto hotels, and taking much needed units from our housing stock. 

“In the midst of an affordable housing crisis, and as we recover from both a pandemic and economic crisis, I find it wholly unconscionable and disappointing that the Zoning Board approved last week’s proposal from a large, multinational corporation to convert 26 units to Executive Suites. It’s time for us to stand up for our values as a city. I voted to ban these large companies from operating these unregulated hotels because they take away precious housing stock, drive up the market, and present serious quality of life issues in every neighborhood,” said Councilor Flynn. “We must not let these large, corporate operators exploit any potential loopholes or circumvent regulations to take away valuable housing stock. I look forward to having this discussion to ensure that our regulations are enforced and our neighborhoods are protected.”

“As we have seen in the past few years in the downtown neighborhoods, if we don’t continue to take action against short-term rentals, housing stock will be converted and residents will not actually live in our neighborhoods anymore,” added Councilor Bok. “We can’t allow an executive suite loophole to frustrate our efforts to preserve much-needed housing in our community.”

“Both the current and previous administrations supported the ordinance,” said Councilor Edwards. “Why are they now supporting workarounds and loopholes? It doesn’t benefit Boston and goes against the spirit and intent of the ordinance.”

For more information, please contact Councilor Flynn’s office at 617-635-3203, or at  [email protected]

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